8 Ways to Lower Your Medical Bills in 2019

December 14, 2019

For many US households, having adequate healthcare coverage is one of many priorities consumers are financially challenged.  Two years ago, “28.5 million people did not have health insurance”, and this was relatively unchanged from 2016, 28.1 million. The Affordable Care Act was designed to help address the lack of healthcare insurance, as well as focusing to lower healthcare expenses.


The Illinois Department of Insurance is hoping a new state bill will afford patients a voice to “say no to certain sky-high price increases proposed by insurance companies for plans sold to individuals and small businesses.”  I recently read “An American Sickness” by Elisabeth Rosenthal that outlines how many of these costs are being passed over to the patients.  An average day in a US hospital “cost $4,300, which is ten times more than a stay in a Spanish hospital”

A story in The Atlantic describes a recent event where a local towns lady had a ministroke and was transported via ambulance for an overnight stay.  This short one day visit cost her $26,203.62.  With three-fourths of Americans not having at least a $1,000 set aside in an emergency fund, a bill of this size can be detrimental to household’s finances.

If you had such an extreme situation occur in your home, could you afford this bill?  A study by KFF.org claims “about a quarter of U.S. adults ages 18-64 … had problems paying or an inability to pay medical bills in the past 12 months.”  This is more common than you think.  

With healthcare and pharmaceuticals skyrocketing passing onto consumers the skyrocketing costs, how can you get your medical bills reduced, and how can you reduce your out of pocket medical expenses?


In this article, you will explore eight different strategies and tips to lower your medical expenses.

1.   Check for Billing Errors

2.  Negotiate Your Medical Bill

3.  Key Measures to Take Before Your Medical Visit

4.  Check Yelp Reviews

5.  How to Buy Cheaper Pharmaceuticals

6.  Decline Medical Services Not Covered by Your Insurance

7.  Medical Bill Forgiveness

8.  Debt Consolidation


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1.  Check for Billing Errors


When it comes to medical bills, you do not want to be surprised. You can avoid surprises with your medical bills by checking for mistakes.


Having a billing error is more common than you think.  “Experts observed a 13 percent increase in medical costs and also found that more than 51 percent of patients owe $1,000 or more to their doctors”.   As medical care becomes increasingly more expensive, medical billing becomes a more significant focus area for healthcare. According to the CEO of Medical Cost Advocate, “80% of medical bills in the U.S. contain errors.”  

If you have substantial medical bills, it has a 30-40% chance of having an error. Equifax claims that for every medical bill of $10,000, the average billing mistake amounts to approximately $1,300. Check for duplicated items, service, or care not received or rendered, and charges your insurance should have covered.


Another reason to check for errors is a fraud. Having incorrect medical or personal information on your medical bills increases the chance of fraud, which ultimately increases the change of your insurance company rejecting the claim.


2.  Negotiate Your Medical Bill

In many cases, you can negotiate your medical bills and lab fees to a much more manageable payment if you are slapped with a significant expense. There is always room to negotiate and discuss your debt with the hospital staff.With numerous clinics, practices, and hospitals switching from ICD 9 to ICD 10, there are nearly five times as many diagnosis codes for medical coders to learn and accurately input.


This increases the chance of mistakes occurring, but if you do some research from a search engine, you can help decipher some of these codes to inquire if it is the service you received. Find out which service is legit and which isn't accurate and call the billing office to correct the fees.If you know you need a procedure performed before the operation or service, price shop.


The world of healthcare knows the patients need to be more empowered. Ask for quotes in writing and what procedures will be performed, if possible. Double-check to make sure these fees include any necessary ancillary services that may be required.Next, ask for discounts.


This may seem odd as if you are shopping at a thrift store, but some clinics offer 10% off if you can pay the bill over the phone or right away. Also, inquire if you qualify for the charity care program.


Some clients have saved 30% after insurance coverage.  The Charity Care Program is a program that “provides free or discounted care to uninsured and underinsured patients who are eligible for assistance.” To learn more about this program, visit AdvocateHealth.com.

The margin built between the delivery of care and its actual cost can vary widely. When a drug, Mesalamine, for example, sells for $12 in the United Kingdom, yet sells for over $700 in the United States, the price can be negotiated if you are polite and keep working on negotiating.


While the ACA was designed to help shift healthcare from profits to focus on patients, it did little to reduce expenses. Plus, most hospitals have given authority to low-level admin personnel the ability to discount some bills by offering discounts.


Finally, contact the billing department and do not brush it off. It is recommended to visit the hospital's billing department in person and sort it out. The staff is more likely to assist, plus you can get an opportunity to discuss your financial situation one-on-one with a financial counselor. Nobody benefits if the bill can't be paid and therefore, they will want to work with you to get paid.



3.  Key Measures to Take Before Medical Visit

There are steps you can take to prevent medical debt, in many cases. First, discuss the billing with the administrative staff.


Do not be afraid to ask about affordable options. When discussing matters with your physician, do not hesitate to ask how much treatment or visit will cost. As a patient, you have the right to know. Another question to ask is if specific tests are essential. For instance, ask the provider if a blood test, x-ray, CT scan, etc. are necessary to determine an outcome. Take the quotes and shop around to determine which provider is more affordable.


Another step to take is to determine if the treatments or practices are covered by your insurer's network.

4.  Check Yelp Reviews

Yep! Yelp has reviews on hospitals.  It isn’t just for hotels and restaurants.  The reports on hospitals can give one insight into the customer service, care of delivery, cleanliness, and much more.   


5.  How to Buy Cheaper Pharmaceuticals

There is no question that pharmaceutical drug prices are increasing faster than inflation every year. According to ConsumerReports, "The average out-of-pocket payment for those who take prescription drugs is $792 annually."  So how can you get discounted prescriptions?


The first step is to ask your doctor about a more affordable prescription or a cheaper alternative. In many situations, generic drugs are a fraction of the price compared to the name brand.


Secondly, ask your physician or doctor about taking a lower dosage if it is adequate, and you can get the same result, yet, saving money as it lasts longer.Also, consider shopping around for price comparison. You can find lower prescription prices online or by visiting websites such as GoodRx.com allows consumers to print coupons.  You can save up to 80% on prescriptions.

Finally, consider purchasing your pharmaceuticals outside the United States if legally allowed. It may come as a surprise to many, but websites such as PharmacyChecker.com verifies if a foreign pharmacy is trustworthy. 


The FDA does not recommend this action because the federal drug watchdog cannot ensure its safety. However, the FDA does have a policy "explaining that it typically does not object to personal imports of drugs that FDA has not approved under certain circumstances," and you can read those at FDA.gov.

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6.  Decline Services not Covered by Your Insurance

You will need to do some homework on verifying what services your insurer covers. By knowing which medical services are not covered, you can decline specific tests at the time you're being admitted.


This is also when you are asked to sign documents. Paying attention to the "Limited Consent" clause, if you check this block, you are limiting services to only what is covered in your insurance network.


You cannot be forced to undergo medical treatment unless it is a life-threatening emergency. You have the right to consent to only what is covered by your insurer. By knowing which medical services you are covered, you can limit your medical expenses.


Related Article: Experience the Blessing of a Christian Healthcare Sharing Program: Medi-Share



7.  Medical Bill Forgiveness

Are you looking to get out of paying your overdue medical bills? Or do you know what steps to take when you have unpaid medical expenses?


There are some situations when financial hardships occur and are present challenges, such as getting a disability that limits one's ability to go back to work immediately. If you are in a similar situation, you should consider getting a petition.


With sites such as Debt.org, the staff can assist with the “provider to forgive the debt entirely,” and this will likely require proof. 


You may be required to provide proof of hardship and may need to present your financial documents, such as the latest pay stub or unemployment documents to tax returns. There are a few non-profit foundations that may be able to assist — contact PAN Foundation and CancerCare for assistance.

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8.  Debt Consolidation

While this is usually the last recommended step, there may be moments that warrant consolidating your level into a secure and manageable monthly payment.


Before you apply, tally up your debts and determine how long it will take to pay off your debts and how much you currently owe. Lastly, you must know how much is a reasonable but affordable amount for you to pay.In a country with complicated medical billing, the payer bears “full legal responsibility for the medical bills”, and it is causing severe financial problems in U.S. households. 


By learning and understanding your insurance coverage, you will gain the knowledge and tools to interpret and adequately dispute a bill should the need arise. Seeking out lower medical expenses is a tough feat as one needs to face not only the providers and staff but also the insurance company as well.

Remember to negotiate your bill while being polite. The medical staff is willing to work with you and will do everything in their ability to cut fees where they can.

Also, you should ask about any available payment plans that may be available that can be structured into affordable monthly payments. If you do not have insurance, ask about special discounts and programs that may be available.



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